Sunday, April 22, 2007

Reduce, reuse, recycle. We spent yesterday morning at Caroline’s house where we’ve been dismantling an old fruit cage / pigeon house (in fact , we’re not sure what it used to be) with the express intention of recovering all the chicken-wire mesh for use in future projects, such as building more poultry housing. My dad has been a life-long hoarder of (supposedly) useful bits and bobs, which filled a garage, an attic and a junk-room (spare bedroom) before my mum eventually managed to turn the tide. Like many in his generation, this habit might have been inspired by growing up in post-World World II austerity: where things were either unaffordable or unobtainable and clever adaptation and making do were essential skills. I think that I’m a bit tidier than my dad, a quality I’m sure Gabrielle is relieved about, considering our immense capacity to store “rubbish” in two barns and acres of land.

We returned home to find our new next-door neighbour, Philippe, working in his back garden to get it ready for when he and his family move in properly at the end of June. He had a large pine tree and a dark laurel bush taking up too much room in a relatively small garden, so I put on my safety clothing and got out my chainsaw and in less than half an hour the whole lot was horizontal and logged up. We dragged the brash, what’s left, onto our land where, when we’ve got the time, we’ll chip it and use it either for pathways or, only when well rotted, as mulch. If it’s not fully rotted, it’ll rob the plants of the nitrogen they need to grow in order to decompose. And today, I’ve started helping him dismantle two pigsties to provide even more room. They are of traditional cob and stone construction and I’m swapping my labour for the stone, which we plan to use for the base of our straw-bale house build.(See before and after photos for both days’ efforts, with Gabrielle, Caroline and then Philippe)

So much for reusing and recycling, I came upon a news story on the BBC website the other day that was entitled
“Pig fat to be turned into diesel: A solution for the world's energy crisis may come in the form of a pig.” The companies are quoted as saying that their pig-fuel will be “cleaner than conventional diesel” and that it “has lower Carbon Dioxide, it is zero sulphur, so many positive benefits for the environment.” All very emotive stuff, as all selling is (as our ex-advertising exec friend, David, tells us) and whilst I can understand the companies using all the “green” words in the dictionary and singing its praises, I’m sad to see the journalists don’t challenge the idea and use such a misleading, if sensational, headline. It really doesn’t bear much analysis at all. Modern intensive farming uses huge amounts of energy. Apparently, it takes 3.5 litres of oil to produce half a kilogramme of steak (couldn’t find any piggie figures!) and it will take additional energy to render and convert pig fat into vehicle fuel. So, whilst it might prove to be an interesting by-product of agriculture, it’s certainly not the panacea claimed and the most important word in dealing with oil running out, before or after global warming gets us, is reduce (our consumption), the first of the three “Rs”, which doesn’t yet include Rendering piggies to drive your car!